SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: The Taliban have long refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, branding them “puppets”.

But a months-long diplomatic push by the United States to broker talks culminated in six days of meetings between Washington and the insurgents in Doha, igniting hopes of a breakthrough more than 17 years after the US invasion.

The points of contention include a ceasefire, a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and the Taliban´s ongoing refusal to speak to Kabul.

Afghan authorities have previously complained of being excluded from the talks, and warned that any deal between the US and the Taliban would require Kabul´s endorsement.

“I call on the Taliban to… show their Afghan will, and accept Afghans´ demand for peace, and enter serious talks with the Afghan government,” Ghani said in a nationally televised address from the presidential palace in Kabul.

US President Donald Trump´s clear eagerness to end America´s longest war has also weighed heavy on the discussions, and Ghani warned against rushing into a deal, citing violence in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

“We want peace, we want it fast but we want it with a plan,” he continued.

“We should not forget that the victims of this war are Afghans … No Afghan wants foreign troops to remain in their country indefinitely. No Afghan wants to face suicide attacks in hospitals, schools, the mosques, and parks.”

Civilians continue to pay a terrible price for the Taliban insurgency, with some estimates showing the Afghan conflict overtook Syria to become the deadliest in the world in 2018.